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Caught in The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  351 ratings  ·  48 reviews
What is it like to be a preacher who can no longer believe the creed?

In confidential interviews, clergy reveal how their lives of service are overshadowed by hypocrisy, as they contemplate taking a leap from their faith. As religious leaders struggle to adapt to the new transparency of the information age, the phenomenon of non-believing clergy portends surprising develo
Kindle Edition, 243 pages
Published November 26th 2013 by Congruity
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Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating concept, but not quite sure about the execution. There are a lot of stitched together stories about people who have lost faith while serving in an ecclesiastical function. There wasn't enough reflection in between the stories or really any broader points beyond the difficulties and some of the freedoms involved in a loss of faith. I love Dennett's theoretical work and I guess I was hoping for more analysis. Still, I really enjoyed the book and found the voices of the people to be tot ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this book helpful and interesting, though shorter than I expected, it only took me a day to read, I am sure there is more could have been added, but I appreciated the methodology and the reflection offered. There was a genuine kindness in the tone of the book. The participants were given a compassionate uncensored space in which to share their difficult journey, and the many verbatim extracts from their interviews are absorbing and challenging. They will resonate for many clergy who find ...more
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I was surprised at how interesting I found this book by Dan Dennett and Linda LaScola. Two-thirds of the text reports verbatim responses from the study participants with the balance being the authors' explanation and commentary. The authors are careful in the preface to disclaim scientific validity due to the relatively small sample size (about three dozen).
Most of the respondents were interesting - some of their stories were fascinating - and I was utterly disgusted by the significant number w
Stephie Williams
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very fine book and for the most part very interesting. I've always liked Daniel Dennett's work and ideas, although I had never read anything by Linda Lascola, but that might be because she hadn't written any books before now.

I must say I felt for some of the ministers in the book. I kind of understand how hard it must be for them, but I do wish they could come out because I think that would really help other nonministers to shake the shackles of their beliefs and become atheist themselves.

I b
Mike Doyle
Jun 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020, theology
Does anybody else skip writing reviews to spend more time reading? (this is my 105th book read of the year and first review) I am so very guilty of that, and here is my attempt to change my habits.

This book wasn’t what I was expecting from one of the touted “New Atheists”, Daniel Dennett. The books subtitle “Leaving Belief Behind” really gave the message that it was along the lines of Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” Or Dennett’s own “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon”. (Ac
Ginger Griffin
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Book synopsis: Christian and Jewish clergy discover that the Holy Bible is just an anthology of ancient woo-woo. Cover-ups ensue.

Eventually, some give up looking for deeper meaning in _The Goat Herder's Guide to the Universe_* and defect to atheism (*credit to Seth Andrews for this description).

But they wonder about the colleagues they left behind, most of whom know the same things they know -- because seminaries (non-fundamentalist ones, anyway) require students to learn about Bible archaeology
Feb 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's amazing to learn that there's actually a website called the clergy project which is a gathering point for clergy members (priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis, etc.) who no longer believe in God – many of whom are still pastoring their congregations but are afraid to come out as atheists because they will lose income, family, prestige, friends, etc. This book focuses on interviews with a number of these clergy members and I like how it had a wide sample with many different Orthodox, Catholic ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book really opened my eyes to the incredible turmoil that disenchanted clergy endure when emancipated from their faith. I can't imagine what it is like to immerse yourself into a life's work where friends and family define you by your role in proselytising a belief that you no longer hold true. Living that kind of lie can be easy for some, excruciatingly disingenuous for others. After reading this book it becomes blatantly obvious that this is an extremely important topic that has not recei ...more
Everton Patterson
I have often wondered what happens if a member of the clergy lost faith, or a politician loses belief in their party's ideology. Do they continue to pretend and spout the same doctrines or would they feel compelled to come clean, and what does that imply as far as their social life and income, because it is a job after all. This book describes a survey of several current and former members of Christian and Jewish clergy who have lost their faith. It runs the gamut from the seminary student who q ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
A fairly bland look at various religious leaders who have lost their faith. Though the work that Dennett and others are doing is worthwhile, it doesn't lend itself to a terribly compelling book. The insight that these people give is somewhat limited and I found to be of little interest. The foreword by Richard Dawkins makes me think I'd be better off reading one of his books on the subject. As the second book by Dennett I've read I just don't have much confidence in what he says. His arguments a ...more
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
The write-up of the follow-up study by Dan Dennett and Linda LaScola related to The Clergy Project. Thirty clergy/seminary professors/students who have either lost their faith completely or have changed aspects of their religious thought talk about their experiences going through such monumental personal change while undertaking the responsibility of leading their congregations/classrooms. The personal stories are illuminating and Dennett's philosophical, psychological, and sociological interjec ...more
Andrej Drapal
As an avid reader of Richard Dawkins early work and almost all work of Daniel Dennet, I was deeply disturbed by this book. The presupposition is that faith is the only tie that links clergy to their institutions. should that be true, religion would really be exceptional, but is not. Faith is universal presupposition for all literally professions - but only one of. A scientist can lose faith in science, a doctor in medicine and so on. Each profession with a mission at least partially rests on fai ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book surprised me. I liked it so much that when I was done I immediately went back and re-read it again. [Contrast that with Dennett's "Breaking the Spell", which frustrated me with its "all questions, no answers" format... but I guess that's how philosophy works.].

I was raised in Mormonism, which has unpaid lay clergy at the local level. Mormon high school and college students also go through a watered-down version of theological seminary (they actually call is Seminary at the HS level an
Abner Huertas
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What's like for a preacher, priest or someone in the clergy to stop believing and to keep on her duties?

The Clergy Project made an incredible study among people in the clergy who stop believing. They found out the reasons of they disbelief, why they kept in the culprit, and what are they feelings about it.

There are many pastors and priest in culprits that don't believe, but they keep in there because they don't know what else to do. They suffer from cognitive dissonance when preaching something
Lady Brainsample
Mixed feelings about this book. The actual unedited interview parts were great, but the editorializing of the authors of the studies was not that great. I didn't realize before picking up the book that this was about a study conducted by some very vocal atheists.
As a believer, it is disconcerting that many of the respondents said that even many of those at seminary teaching them didn't believe what they were then going out and preaching to their congregations.
Would have also liked to have seen a
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A note to AP Research teachers: the introduction and appendix of this book are great examples of how to design qualitative research and how to communicate limitations in a study. That's not why I picked up the book; it was just a pleasant surprise.

I am always interested in reading about peoples' religious experiences, and that includes the change or loss of faith. I found this study enlightening from the direct quotes from clergy to the authors' analysis and suggestions. It's a short book -- go
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting book that I didn't have the patience to finish. Conversations with many preachers who either stopped believing but kept their positions or left the church entirely. What was surprising was the number of seminary teachers who don't believe and are teaching would-be preachers about nuance and metaphor, while the seminary students have never considered the fact that there might be something other than black and white. Interesting, especially for the questioner.
Megan S
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enlightening read. Religious, spiritual and non-religious alike could all read this book and take away something valuable - humanizing the clergy. As an ex-Evangelical this was both heart wrenching (so many clergy unable to truly process the questions leading to and from deconversion) and heart-warming (so many clergy wanting to simply make the world a better place and being brave enough to leave behind harmful aspects of supernaturalism). Definitely worthwhile and an easy read.
Matthew Hullinger
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Some of the stories from this book could have been taken directly from my own struggle with faith. I think it should stand to show just how human the people behind the pulpit are. If you are religious and go to church regularly, there is a decent chance that the man who stands before you, preaching from the Bible, is actually a nonbeliever.
Richard Worden
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book describes the journey of a number of theologically/biblically trained men and women whose education did not end with graduation or leaving a theological college. Significant intellectual and spiritual growth took place in ministry or in para-religious work producing one crisis of faith after another. No mention is made of James Fowler's Stages of Faith which might have helped.
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard Worden
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The thoughts and feelings of clergy caught between paying lip service to dogma and modern theology. This book gives insight to the struggle of the so called "atheist clergy".
Jason Barnum
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book! Especially good for those going through a faith crisis.
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, fascinating. The interviews kept me enthralled, and Dennett's analysis was insightful. I didn't want this book to end. Thank god for the Clergy Project.
Maritza Buendía
In "Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind", researchers Daniel C. Dennet and Linda LaScola present the stories of current and former clergy who have lost their faith. They interviewed 35 people over three years asking them about the experience of questioning their religious beliefs and their choice to either leave their religious community or stay regardless of their change of heart.

The book describes the differences between the more "literal" and traditional groups who believe in the inf
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
While I can appreciate the difficulties and cognitive dissonance revealed in this qualitative research, the writing had an obvious slant, as predicted, and did not leave much room for readers to consider other alternatives, such as doctrinal issues that could potentially lead to the noted struggles. Incidentally, many of the concepts with which these clergy members struggled fell within the Calvinist stream of thinking. This study did not have a broad enough sample of those from a Wesleyan backg ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I can't remember how I came upon this book, but I'm glad that I did.

Daniel C. Dennett is a philosphy professor at Tufts University, and he and Linda LaScola basically did an in-depth study of ministers, priests, and rabbis, as well as other people of faith -- and asked the question "What happens when people lose their faith but their livelihood is dependent upon that faith?" This is a question I had never thought of, and I was intrigued by the variety of answers.

Some people remain in their faith
Darin Stewart
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Raising your hand in class to ask a question is an intimidating prospect. You just know that you are the only one in the room who doesn’t understand or who doesn’t know the answer. Risking that potential humiliation is the price of learning and insight. Of course for every person brave enough to ask a question there are a dozen other people in the room with the same question but lack the courage to ask.

The central theme of Dennett and LaScola’s book is that this fear of publically admitting que

Jul 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: crisis-of-faith
Caught in The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind is the collected comments of a sample of individuals who concluded that the term 'god' had for them no relevance. It represents what might be a growing trend on not only congregants but clergy coming to a crisis of faith and resolving the conflict by leaving not only the pastorate but the faith.

I find it important in terms of our current cultural evolution and the changes occasioned in our society to familiarize myself with the reasoning of men and wom
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not bad, but not great either. It's actually a pretty straightforward book, it's a review of a study/survey done by Dennet and Linda LaScola on the Clergy Project. The Clergy Project is a website/organization started to help non-believing clergy find a way out. The book covers the gamut of christian clergy, from Mormon to baptist to liberal unitarians, but all of the subjects have one thing in common, they no longer believe in god. Its a somewhat fascinating study on how people who's livelihoods ...more
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Daniel Clement Dennett III is a prominent philosopher whose research centers on philosophy of mind, science, and biology, particularly as they relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is a noted atheist, avid sailor, and advocate of the Brights move ...more

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